The Sanctuary. High up on the mountain, the Sanctuary is a place of refuge. It is a place where humans save dogs, who, in turn, save the humans. It is a place where the past does not exist, where hopelessness is chased away, where the future hasn’t been written, where orphans and strays can begin to imagine a new meaning for “family.”
Evie is making her way to the Sanctuary. She has lied to gain entry. She has pretended to know more than she does about dogs, but she is learning fast. Once the indomitable Mrs. Auberchon lets her pass, she will find her way. Like the racing greyhound who refuses to move, the golden retriever who returns to his job as the Sanctuary’s butler every time he’s adopted, and the Rottweiler who’s a hopeless candidate for search-and-rescue, Evie comes from a troubled past. But as they all learn, no one should stay prisoner to a life she didn’t choose.
This is the story of two women and a whole pack of dogs who, having lost their way in the world, find a place at a training school—and radical rescue center—called the Sanctuary. It is a story of strays and rescues, kidnappings and homecomings, moving on and holding on and letting go. And it is, ultimately, a moving and hilarious chronicle of the ways in which humans and canines help each other find new lives, new selves, and new hope.
I am a huge dog lover so I enjoyed the book – the dogs were my favorite. Well, most of the dogs.
I am a big dog lover so Josie and Dora weren’t really a favorite of mine, but I loved Hank and was bummed he left so soon. I loved Boomer as well (pit bulls and goldens are my dogs of choice!). (And I enjoyed Shadow, Tasha, and Alfie.)
I have had a tickle to want to open a rescue shelter myself and this definitely pulled at those heart strings.
I felt like I could connect to the book with the way that Evie communicated with the dogs and of course, the dogs themselves; but I am still struggling with all the holes that were in the story.
We eventually learn Evie had a history of cocaine abuse as well as substance abuse “treatment” of some sort. And we know she doesn’t have anyone in the outside world, but that is all we know. Nothing more.
We can gather that there is a story behind Giant George, Mrs. Auberchon, and the sisters; but again, no more.
I really would have liked the holes filled in a little more – to learn more about the people that we and the dogs interacted with.
Still, I rated this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounding it up to a 4 star read.
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About the Author:
The Mountaintop School For Dogs And Other Second Chances is my ninth novel. My life in fiction officially began with the publication of Small Town Girl, in 1983. Since then I’ve published with big, small, and university presses, plus an adventure in e-publishing with my eighth novel, Thanksgiving. My short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and many literary journals, but I haven’t done any stories lately. With my last several novels, each time I finish, I feel I want to write stories again, but then I start missing the thing of a long haul and find myself itchy to start a new one.
I was born in Clinton, Massachusetts in 1952 and lived for many years in Boston and Cambridge. I taught creative writing at Boston College, Northeastern University, the (former) Seminars at Radcliffe, Harvard University Extension and Summer School, and most recently at MIT, where I had a long, excellent gig as a writer in residence in the writing program. My life in books and writing has also included jobs as freshman comp teacher, copy writer, freelance journalist, film reviewer, bookstore clerk, and even, way back in the day, as an assembly-line packer for a book manufacturer in my home town.
As I like to say at my public appearances, and to anyone who asks about my career, “I’ve been around.” I was a child and adolescent poet and playwright. My first poem was published in a local paper when I was eight and then I just kept going. My schools put on my plays as a matter of routine. One year, in high school, when I’d been feeling a little lazy, I was insulted to discover a Thornton Wilder play might end up being chosen for a yearly drama thing, but it got me to hunker down and write a new one. I finally began writing fiction as a graduate student in English at Clark University in Worcester, MA, working on a thesis about Virginia Woolf, which I needed to take a break from. I was supposed to go on from my master’s to a Ph.D. in literature and a career as an academic who also wrote plays and poetry: my old fantasy.
But fiction took over. I don’t feel I “found it.” It was more that it just happened. I didn’t even know what I was doing when I started writing a semi-autobiographical piece about a girl obsessed with bomb shelters in the Cold War days of my youth, but it became that first novel. Sometimes I think I became a fiction writer after eliminating poet, playwright, and academic, as if the whole thing were logical. Mostly, I think I became a fiction writer because fiction is where you get to do everything, and that’s what I hope shows most in my work.
I write fulltime now and live in mid-coast Maine. I welcome inquiries and comments from book groups and readers of all sorts. One of my greatest pleasures is finding email from someone who just read one of my books and wanted to say they felt moved, or inspired, or connected, or less lonely or misunderstood, or even upset about a turn of a plot or something I described.
Now that Mountaintop is making its way in the world, I especially welcome comments from people who share my experience of living with animals who were rescued from lives of neglect, abuse, tragedy. My own three dogs inspired me to write about the profound and life-affirming things that happen when humans have the chance to truly connect with animals: comedy, really, because comedy is the opposite of the tragic. My dogs drive me crazy at least once a day. But they make me laugh a whole lot more, and while I hope and trust they’ve forgotten their earlier experiences of being in terrible situations, I never stop remembering that at any given moment, somewhere, for every animal being loved by a human, another is being hurt by one. I like to think it’s not a mere fantasy that maybe a reader or two of Mountaintop will want to go to a shelter and bring home a homeless pet.
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